What is a ticker code?
Anything traded on ASX has an individual code that uniquely identifies it in an abbreviated form. You may be familiar with these codes which are displayed on ASX ticker boards and are included alongside company names in newspaper sharemarket tables.
Codes uniquely identify a tradeable instrument so that it can be tracked throughout trading, settlement and price reporting systems. These codes are important. Whenever you make an order to buy or sell you will need to know the ASX code for the instrument you want to trade.
ASX sometimes uses a different length of ticker code to indicate to investors and traders that there is something different about a listed product.
A good rule to remember is that a 3 character code typically indicates the ordinary shares in a company – where there is more or less than 3 characters, there is most likely something different from the ordinary shares of a company.
How many characters are there in ticker codes?
Originally codes were confined to 3 characters however formats have grown considerably due to the number and types of instruments now available for trading. There are far more companies listed these days and there are other markets such as options, warrants and futures that also require codes.
Listed companies - the ASX 3 character code
Most ASX listed company’s codes have 3 characters. This 3 character code represents that company and all securities issued by that company will incorporate their 3 character code.
The 3 character code is typically used to issue the primary issue of shares by that company. This is the case for listed companies, A-REITS, listed investment companies and infrastructure funds and conventional exchange traded funds.
Listed companies - secondary issues
A company may issue options that can be exercised for shares that can be traded on market. An option over XYZ Company may have the code XYZO and a rights issue may use the code XYZR.
The Telstra fully paid ordinary stock code is TLS, however at the time of its capital raising through an instalment receipt (IR) structure those instalment receipts traded as TLSCA – indicating that there were differences between Telstra ordinary shares and the instalment receipts.
Special condition codes
A fourth character that is added to the underlying 3 character codes indicates a special circumstance or product type. For example, if ASX undertook a share split, it may trade on a deferred settlement basis for a period. This would be identified by the code: “ASXDA”.
Another example would be a partly paid security, this is a security that an additional payment of money is required to be made by the holder, and this security would be identified by the fourth character “C” for exmaple "ASXCA".
Listed companies - interest rate securities
Listed companies may issue various types of interest rate securities. These securities have a 4 or 5 or 6 character code. Again the 3 character issuer code will be the prefix followed by a character to identify the type of security for example H: unsecured note, G: convertible note and P: preference share.
A company may issue a series of a particular type of interest rate security. In this case it becomes necessary to be able to identify each particular series. Alpha characters are added sequentially to each series as they are issued. WOWHA represents the first unsecured note on issue by Woolworths Limited. CPAPB represents the second preference share issue by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Exchange Traded Products (ETPs)
ETPs include Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), Managed Funds and Structured Products. These products may have 3, 4 or 6 letters ticker codes. Some ticker codes are intuitive, e.g. GOLD which tracks the price of physical gold. Other codes not quite so e.g. STW which represents the SPDR S&P/ASX 200 ETF issued by State Street.
A complete list of ETPs and their ticker codes is available.
ASX codes - derivative markets
Derivatives are Instruments that derive their value primarily from that of an underlying instrument (such as shares, share price indices, fixed interest securities, commodities, currencies etc).
ASX codes typically employ the code of the underlying as the prefix to the code for these instruments.
Exchange traded options
Exchange traded options markets offer hundred of different series over the same underlying share - each with a different right to buy or sell / expiry date / exercise price.
Each option series requires its own unique ASX code. ASX employs a 6 character code or in some cases a 5 character code with the first 3 representing the underlying stock or index.
For example BHPXJ represents an option over BHP shares or XJOWX for an option over the S&P/ASX 200 ( XJO being the code for that index).
Sometimes exchange traded options over a secondary issue are available for trading. The secondary issue will most likely have a 4 or 5 characters so a new 3 character code must be created to represent the underlying for options over that security.
Warrants also use the underlying asset and each series must be uniquely identified. In addition to the underlying instrument an identifier is required for the type of warrant and the issuer of the warrant..
The fourth character identifies the type of warrant. The most common are I or J for instalments and W, V, U or F for trading style warrants.
Each warrant issuer has their own character which is used as the fifth character of the code.
The sixth and final character is the identifier for the particular series. A to O are used for call warrants and M to Z for puts
BHPWMF represents a warrant over BHP shares. The fourth character “W” indicates it is a trading style warrant, M tells us it has been issued by Macquarie Bank. It is a call warrant because the last character is "F".
ASX Futures may have a 2 or 3 character underlying code, followed by a contract differentiator. This contract differentiator generally represents the month of expiry for the futures contract. For example the underlying code for the most active equity based contract is "AP" for the ASX 200 SPI futures contract.
Codes – share price indices
Share price indices are identifiable by a 3 character code. They are useful to know the code for the S&P/ASX 200 is XJO and the prefix XJO is used for all exchange traded options and warrants over the S&P/ASX 200 index.
Index codes are also used when you want to plot the performance of various indices on a chart.